slights by kaaron warren

To be honest, when I finished reading this novel, my first reaction was, “That’s it?”

But I suppose it’s an issue of wrong expectations. The back blurb reads, Stevie is a killer. When she kills people she asks them: “WHAT DO YOU SEE?” She’s about to find out. 

This happens about two-thirds into the book, and by then it’s too late to stop drumming my fingers. I dove into the novel expecting a philosophical serial killer searching for answers about the afterlife, and instead got a hodgepodge of family anecdotes from an extremely unlikable protagonist who keeps digging in her father’s backyard.

I have no problems with unlikable, morally corrupt protagonists. Patricia Highsmith’s Thomas Ripley is a forger, a liar, and a murderer, but he is also suave and charming. His thoughts, no matter how dark, are fascinating enough to enjoy and follow. What will happen next? I would wonder. What will he do next?

I found Stevie fascinating, but I couldn’t enjoy her company because she is too repulsive. Everyone in her universe is repulsive, and I kept resisting the text because some details sounded too fantastic to me. I mean, it’s not enough that there’s one sexual predator? It has to be almost every single person she meets?

Kaaron Warren writes well. There are brilliant passages here. She is able to successfully present a skewed view of the world. But in terms of structure, the novel’s downfall is its linearity. Yes, Stevie rambles and digresses, but the structure is still linear. At eighteen, the novel opens. At nineteen. And so on. Why remind us about Stevie’s age, when she never really grows? The novel feels like one whole day in the life of a disturbed young woman.

Slights has a horrifying premise – what if when we die, we don’t see angels or paradise or the people we love, but the people we have slighted? The people we don’t even remember? And what if these people surrounded us in a closed room and hurt us and ate our flesh for all of eternity? The story would have been more engaging if the novel opened with Stevie committing her first murder, in the hopes of finding the truth about the room she sees when she first dies. This is not a spoiler – it’s right there on the blurb anyway.

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